Episode 11 – In Conversation with Publishers Weekly's
CEO and Publisher of Publishers Weekly
Nicole Tomassi (00:07):
Welcome to Westchester words, education ed tech and publishing I'm Nicole Tomassi, and today I'll be speaking with Cev Bryerman, CEO and publisher of Publishers weekly. Cev's been on the podcast several times before to talk about a number of things that are taking place within the publishing industry. Welcome back Cev.
Cevin Bryerman (00:25):
Well, glad to be back in, Nicole always enjoyed our conversations. So I am looking forward to answering some more questions.
Nicole Tomassi (00:32):
Well, thank you for coming in for another grilling. I'll try to go easy on you. <Laugh> okay. So to dive in, we're recording this at the beginning of May and later this month you guys are going to be putting on the second annual US Book Show. Do you wanna talk a little bit about it as far as keynotes and how the event's gonna unfold?
Cevin Bryerman (00:51):
Sure. this is our second year doing it. Last year it was highly successful with over 3,500 people coming into the event from librarians to book sellers, to media, to industry people. We had great speakers last year, including Oprah Winfrey this year back by some comments we've heard from our research. We extended a half a day for people to spend more time at the booths. The virtual booth, it is a virtual show. We have some new guests this year. We have Mo Willems. We have John Grisham, we have Celeste Ng, so a whole new lineup, and we continue to do buzz panels. We continue to do industry events, industry sessions. We've added some sponsored content this year. Also, we made it free to every book seller and librarian in, in north America. Attendance is way up and during the US Book Show,uwe'll have our first live celebration for our 150th anniversary. If so,ulooking forward to the US Book Show and great speakers and great content. So hopefully everybody can join in, go to us book show and,usign up and register for the event.
Nicole Tomassi (01:54):
We'll make sure to include a link to that. On our website, when we do post this episode, is it USBookShow.com?
Cevin Bryerman (02:01):
Nicole Tomassi (02:03):
Get in there and sign up. Now, remind me, what are the dates again?
Cevin Bryerman (02:06):
It's may 23rd,through 26th. It's opens up at Monday afternoon and then full days on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursday. There'll be children's panels. There'll be industry panels. Again, there'll be graphic novels panels across all sections of publishing. There'll be panels for everybody to enjoy. It's on demand, So if you can't attend that particular hour that session's going, you can go back with your registration ticket and do it at 11 o'clock at night or two months after. It's on demand, most of it's prerecorded, lot of live Q and a it's. It's an opportunity to be with the industry in a virtual event. Next year, we'll do roughly the same timeframe in terms of may and have some type of hybrid event for the US Book Show.
Nicole Tomassi (02:53):
You said that there's gonna be a half day that's specifically for the virtual booth so that people can go in and focus more on that. So that's gonna be completely separate from the panels.
Cevin Bryerman (03:02):
The booths are open always throughout the show, but Monday afternoon from 11 o'clock, they open up. So there's more interaction with the sponsors at the booths and the people with who want to attend and see what people are doing.
Nicole Tomassi (03:14):
Nice. I think the sponsors will probably really appreciate that.
Cevin Bryerman (03:18):
You know, virtual conferences are, are tough for engagement, and we felt with the feedback that we got from the industry sponsors wanted more time with people to come in and chat with them or show what kind of books they're doing or whatever branding opportunity they want to do. So it gave the librarian and booksellers and media more time with, with the booths because during the two other days, it's packed full of conferences, libraries, information, and so on
Nicole Tomassi (03:47):
So much content and so little time, but it's good that you're also making it available for a long time afterwards. I seem to recall last year, you guys kept it up for about two or three months post event.
Cevin Bryerman (03:57):
We we're aware of people who have jobs during the day or booksellers or librarians who are managing the stores or the libraries, and they want to go to some particular session. So it's, it's, they can go back a week later, two weeks after the show closes a month, or if you missed something that you wanna revisit it and see, again, all those recordings are prerecorded in advance.
Nicole Tomassi (04:18):
Excellent. So one of the keynotes is gonna be Jamie Raskin?
Cevin Bryerman (04:21):
That is correct. Cause one of the big topics that we're having is about ban on books and Jamie reskin has been a big proponent of not having ban on books for, for schools and libraries. So yes, Jamie Raskin is I think he's the closing speaker of the show.
Nicole Tomassi (04:37):
I'm sure the librarians and the bookstores will definitely wanna be tuning in to hear what he's gotta say on this. A couple of minutes ago, you mentioned the fact that you're gonna be looking at a hybrid event next year and you know, hybrid certainly seems to be the word of 2022 and was something we talked about a little bit during the webinar that was co-hosted with Publishers Weekly, back in March about the return to office and coming in a couple of days a week and working remote the rest of the time, that sort of thing. Is that what you're hearing from most of the industry that they're looking at doing more of a hybrid model as we edge forward?
Cevin Bryerman (05:13):
Yeah, I think people are feeling it out. You know, a lot of publishing houses want people to start coming back. Maybe not full time. I know at Publishers Weekly, our office is open, you know, every day of the week, but it's up to the department manager and yourself, people are starting to return in whatever direction each company wants the employees to come back in. But we were talking before we got onto this thing as I was watching CNBC this morning. And it seems like, you know, real estate office space is starting to perk up again, people starting to come back to the office. So I think it depends on the publishing house on what their, their plans are, but I know people are looking forward to having people come back to the office. I think you lose a lot of creativity and colleagues being together and brainstorming. And I think that came up an hour webcast that we did a couple of months ago with, with, you know, people want to come back in and we need to get back to some normalcy and maybe it's not five days a week, but maybe it's two days a week, three days a week. But again, it depends upon the publishing house and what they're doing.
Nicole Tomassi (06:13):
There's something to be said for both. I mean, you know, there's, the remote aspect can be good in certain ways because it gives you a little more time to focus on certain things. But there's also something to be said for the spontaneity that can only happen when a group of people are in, in the same setting and not in a screen.
Cevin Bryerman (06:29):
Yeah. I tell you, and there's a lot of people that relocated to different states now that they want, you know, some people who lived in New York didn't want to be in New York because of their living situation and, and, you know, New York was a hot center for COVID. So it's, it's really comes down to people's comfort level. We try to make our offices very safe. We downsized our office space, but we gave enough space for people are not on top of each other. So it all depends. As you said on, people's comfort level, you know, we're really requesting at least two times a week that you come in on certain days, we have allocated office desk space for people. It's almost like a Wework situation where it's open and you can just plug in when you come into the office, you can reserve conference rooms. So we we're to make it conducive. We're we're not on top of each other, cuz we have 44 employees and our employees commute on subways or the Long Island railroa and it's just a matter of comfort level. You know, we're excited have people back, I go into the office at least once or twice a week for meetings or lunches or just pick up my mail or talk to, you know, talk to people. I think that's what people miss is talking to each other.
Nicole Tomassi (07:31):
Yeah, I think you're right about that. There's only so much screen time you can do. We actually had an event last week where several of the employees got together and it was the first time a lot of us were seeing each other in two years. It was nice to be face to face and you know, talk over dinner.
Cevin Bryerman (07:47):
We have once a week, we have once every couple weeks happy hour where people can come in, it's around a theme like next week is open enrollment for benefits. So, you know, we invited people in to come to learn about the benefits. And then after that there's a little small happy hour. People can socialize and have a drink together or just, you know, say hello to each other. So we try to make it more of an environment where people come in and learn new things or just having to see each other. Cause we don't see each other. It's only on zoom.
Nicole Tomassi (08:15):
And speaking of seeing each other, people are starting to go back out as their comfort level increases to things like trade shows. I mean, London book fair was probably the testing ground this year, so far. What are your thoughts going forward into, you know, the summer and fall in terms of trade shows?
Cevin Bryerman (08:33):
Well, I, I'm excited to go back to the trade shows cuz I missed the networking. I was at PLA this year in Portland, Oregon, it was safe. It was great to see four or 5,000 librarians. They, they want to talk to each other. They want to pick up collateral. People had to have vaccination cards approved before, they had to have wearing mask. If anything, with TLA people were excited to get back together. Again, I did not go to international shows this year and did not go to London and not go below yet. But I, we starting up going internationally for Frankfurt book fair and the Sharjah book fair, which is later in the year, as you said, it's how comfortable you are going to trade shows being around 20, 30,000 people. You just have to be smart. But I think it's time, at least for me and some team members to be back in front of people.
Cevin Bryerman (09:22):
There's nothing about, you know, walking down an aisle and having a casual conversation and ideas perk up. It's very, very difficult. Doing it virtually or on zoom events. I think people are tired of zoom. So I think trade shows will start coming back. I think now with the vaccination and the booster shots and you know, people have to be aware of their own situation, but I think it's time to come back. Will they come back the same level attendance? I'm not sure cuz I know the attendances for London and, and TLA and PLA were down. People are testing the waters and I think people really wanna get back to going to trade shows more often in networking and creating deals. I've created a couple of deals, you know, being in, in London, and Sharjah, you know, we do PW and Spanish. Now that's Seville that came through a trade show conversation. We do PW and Arabic which came through conversations at their trade show. So it's more about doing business together and we're in a business that are people to people.
Nicole Tomassi (10:20):
Do you think, even though the attendance may be lower, it's probably people who are really wanting to be there. So it might actually be better with it being a little bit smaller. What do you think?
Cevin Bryerman (10:31):
Yeah, I, I think people who realize that they have to do business at the shows, they're gonna go to the shows and maybe it's more, you know, directed. And when they get their meetings, they come in and do this. I know there are less parties and events after the trade show. Cause a lot of people went to trade shows for the business purpose, but then there's always celebrations at night and people doing parties. I think that's been scaled back a little bit, but I, I, I think people just wanna get back and do business. And again, I think trade shows is a perfect place. You know, I, you know, I go to overseas a lot and I haven't seen in my overseas colleagues and, and you lose that communication even though we try hard with zoom events and corresponding, it's not the same. So people who are serious about business and get their business done and spend their time. But I, I think people are also looking at the expenses. They realize that spending a lot of money, is it, do you really need to beat that show or not at that show?
Nicole Tomassi (11:25):
Right. And you know, do you need to send as many people as you had in the past? So those are the decisions. I think every company is gonna have to look at a little more carefully. You were saying a minute ago that PW now publishes in Arabic. When did that happen?
Cevin Bryerman (11:38):
Actually it happened two years ago. Ahmed who's the chairman of Sharjah book fair, He realizes that the, the value of PW's brand and sending a message about Arabic and translation and you know, from there they built the children's festival. So I believe he's one of the largest book fair and probably in the world. It's two weeks and there's over a million people coming, buying and selling books. There's a professional program. He's done a really phenomenal job at the book fair and I have to commend him, you know, because he started this six, seven years ago and now he has a library part of the, of the show you know, has a professional show. He is a consumer show. So he's done a phenomenal job in, in building a nice book, fair, just like, you know, Bologna has a phenomenal book, fair and, and Frankfurt has a good book. Fair us book show is a good book. Fair. So we've learned from there. And then from being in the Sharjah event I met Enrique from Lantia and he's always dreamed of having Publishers Weekly in Spanish. And we started that about a year ago and it's doing very, very well and it's growing for Latin America, Mexico. So PW is in Spanish and PW'S in Arabic and we're looking at other countries to do PW additions and different languages.
Nicole Tomassi (12:50):
You, you kind of stole the next question out of my head there. I was wondering if you were looking at other regions,
Cevin Bryerman (12:56):
I think PW's a conduit for the world. So if I can find another country to work with we're happy to open it up.
Nicole Tomassi (13:05):
That sounds really exciting. Do you notice any differences in terms of, you know, just the level of interest or the engagement with reading or is it pretty much the same everywhere? People just want interesting content to read?
Cevin Bryerman (13:20):
I, I think everybody wants interesting content to read. I think they want diversity in, in, in content. I just think there'll, there's people who enjoy reading and, and as the, the famous words, the written word of the Sharjah book fair. So it's translation it's right. It's just the whole ecosystem. And I think there's the high level of interest.
Nicole Tomassi (13:42):
That's awesome. Anything else you wanna share before you?
Cevin Bryerman (13:46):
No, just now this is, as I said before, we were talking publishers weekly celebrating its 150th anniversary. We had a special edition of 276 pages. We went back into the archives of the company and we did the last 25 years of the history of publishing and how the industry has changed over time from CDs to eBooks, to printed, to audiobooks. And so it's, it's great to go back in the history and I gotta compliment the staff over the years. Now, we've been around again 150 years. We've never missed a single issue since we've published and we've gone through wars, we've gone through super Sandy storms. So it was the dedication of, of everybody at the company to continue that even when we were sold 11 years ago, we had to be out of our office and publish the magazine within 30 days and assemble a whole staff and team.
Cevin Bryerman (14:38):
So a lot of, a lot of great people throughout the years have contributed to the success of publishers weekly. And we continue to maintain that, that history, and I encourage people to go and pick up an issue of publishers weekly to read or go back to the anniversary. We've pulled out a lot of content from our archives about the history of publishing in the last 25 years. There were a lot of great names are there to read about their careers and the history of publishers weekly. We are the history of publishing and people who wanna know more about publishing should pick up at least that issue or pick up a subscription to the magazine and, and learn about what's going on. It's it's been a great milestone. I've been with the company 30 years in different capacities to see it transition from all different levels. It's, it's exciting. And, and it's exciting as to continue on that tradition of of 150 years of publishing the history publishing is there.
Nicole Tomassi (15:32):
It is. And I actually did go into the office for the first time in a couple years, and it was there waiting for me and I did thumb through it. And it's just like you said, it's, it's a walk through history really, and the publishing history and some of the names from the last 25, even 50 years, there's still a force in publishing today. A lot of them and hats off to, to the entire staff at publishers weekly, it was a really great issue. So if you can't get your hands on the print, one, definitely look it up. On the website, there's just so much great stuff to read in there.
Cevin Bryerman (16:04):
Well, it's also, you know, it's not only just our hundred 50, there's a lot of other publishing houses that celebrated their own milestones. And it's also good to see things that are going on, from the consolidations of publishing houses. The, the growth of independent publishing the growth is self-publishing and PW is, has been recording the history of it. So if you ever wanna get into in your history buff about publishing, wanna learn more about it. It's a great reference tool.
Nicole Tomassi (16:29):
I agree. And, and here's to the next 150 years, wherever it might take us. <Laugh>
Cevin Bryerman (16:34):
Nicole Tomassi (16:35):
Well, thank you for being a steward of it for, you know, for the past 30 years and, and hopefully for quite a while to come. And we'll definitely check out the us book show in a few weeks and we'll see what else is in the offing for publishers weekly. So I wanna thank you again, ke for coming on and sharing
Cevin Bryerman (16:54):
Well, thank you. And also, you know, PW has a great relationship with Westchester publishing services. We've done a lot of good events together and I wish, and you guys celebrate your hundred 50th one day.
Nicole Tomassi (17:04):
I hope we will do that too. I probably won't be here for it, cuz I'm just a little,
Cevin Bryerman (17:09):
Maybe Tyler, maybe Tyler will be,
Nicole Tomassi (17:11):
Maybe you never know. I mean, maybe they'll come out with some really cool gene therapy thing and I'll be here to rattle some cages. Time will tell.
Cevin Bryerman (17:20):
Appreciate your, and again thank you for this conversation about PWS and its history and its 150th birthday.
Nicole Tomassi (17:29):
Congratulations, and many more years of success ahead, Cev.
Nicole Tomassi (17:37):
Thank you for listening to this episode of Westchester words. If you're looking for previous episodes or want to read additional content that has been shared by some of our guests, please visit our websites: Westchester publishing services.com and Westchester education services.com for an international perspective, check out our sister podcast, Westchester words, UK and international available on the Westchester education UK website, Westchestereducation.co.uk or wherever you stream podcasts. We love hearing from our listeners and welcome your emails at Westchester words at Westchester ed SV, cs.com. Tell us what you enjoy hearing on our podcast or suggest topics that we can cover in future episodes. Speaking of future episodes, I look forward to having you join us for the next episode of Westchester words, when we'll be having another engaging conversation about a topic of interest to the education at tech and publishing communities until then stay safe, be well and stay tuned.